It is now widely accepted in China that the judicial system must be reformed if it is to play an essential role as China develops a market economy, experiences a growing consciousness of legal rights, and develops fair, efficient, and predictable institutions to settle disputes and check bureaucratic power. China’s Supreme People’s Court has taken a number of positive steps in recent years to increase the transparency of court proceedings, strengthen the authority of trial judges, and encourage more active participation by litigants and their lawyers. However, lack of judicial independence, poor training, deficient litigation procedures, inadequate protections for criminal suspects and defendants, reliance on local governments for personnel and funding, and corruption – among other factors – continue to undermine the courts’ ability to handle cases fairly and efficiently.
While extensive and fundamental reforms are clearly needed, more narrow reforms could also improve China’s courts in important ways. Our Center has been working with key institutions and individuals in China – including the courts – to help promote further judicial reform.
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